Driving home from work after a stressful day, I heard the beat of Alicia Keys' new song No One coming through the speakers of the car. I've heard it many times before, but it was only after a good conversation with my spiritual director that a deeper meaning resonated from this track.
Earlier today, I had a wonderful lunch with my quirky yet contemplative S.D. We talked about vacations, my trip to Chicago, the Spiral of Life (I'll delve into this on another blog), and inevitably about my job. I explained how each day more and more people were learning about my vocation - poker players, charitable organizations I worked with, and fellow employees each learned about my desire to join the Capuchins in a new way. I talked about how their reactions were never against me, but usually something like: "Wow!" "Dude, that's crazy." "No way! Do you not like women anymore?" "I could never do something like that. That's pretty awesome to actually attempt something like that."
The thing she said afterwards resonated through my mind for the rest of the day: "No matter how hard you try, no matter how long you've known them, no matter how close you are, there are some people that will never see you as this type of person...and you should be at peace with that."
In this year plus that I've been discerning, there are those that see me differently because of my vocation. There are those that treat me just the same, and there are those that no longer talk to me. What she had told me made complete sense, and I realized that's still something I'm working on. I, like anyone else, seek validation for things via my friends and counterparts. When this "priest thing" first started, I told close friends because I wanted that affirmation - that response of: "Yeah, I think you'd make a great priest."
Unfortunately for men and women in my situation, that isn't always the case. Religious life is an esoteric calling. We are all called to be Christ-like, but not all are called to be sisters, monks, priests, or nuns. For those that neither understand nor agree with the role of religious life, we find it hard to get the same encouragement one might receive if discussing marriage or a career change.
All day, I thought about the responses I'd heard from co-workers, friends, and the like. While most were supportive, very few were able to bridge the gap of Vito the Guy and the Iconoclastic Ideal of A Priest. I realize I may never fit that perfect image, and I've done my best no say otherwise. Yet despite my attempts to "keep it real," the fact that some of my friends may never accept my decision is disheartening. For if others are not convinced of my vocation, how can I ever convince myself that this is not another crazy idea?
I spent the day with these thoughts, keeping them in the back of my mind. On my drive home, they creeped out of the locked box of my subconscious. There will be those that can never understand my call. There will be those that will never picture me as a friar, even if I wore the habit and the rosary hung from the twine cord. They were lonely thoughts, and I felt very depressed.
As the song began on the radio, I asked myself the key question that really matters with regards to discernment: "What is my motive?"
If indeed this was another crazy idea of mine, what is the motive behind my idea? If it were merely a backlash because of my bad relationship, would I worked as hard to pay off the debt and secure living arrangements for my mother and I? If this were some way to make my mom or my family happy, would I have included them more in my spiritual journey? I rarely go to the same Mass as my mom, and if I really wanted to make her happy, I'd just do the laundry or leave the toilet seat up.~
The thing that keeps me going is that I continue my journey out of a genuine love for God and happiness with my life. I don't plan on entering the Postulancy to impress my friends, to prove to anyone that I am a good person, or to show how apostolic I can be by working with the poor. My overwhelming love for God and his Eternal Grace is what lights my fire and drives me to live my life these days, and while I'm sad that not everyone can experience that kind of love, I know that no one, despite their words or actions, can ever steer me away from that source of power.
Perhaps her song was originally intended as a love song from woman to man, but as I hear it now, Alicia Keys' song: No One sounds like a triumphant praise of the Almighty, and how she will never be separated from His Grace. Needless to say, after hearing the song in this new light, I could not hold back that wavering tear.
Simply writing the lyrics does not convey the message of what I felt. So having read this, I give you the song again, and maybe some of you who find it hard for a guy like me to find a Calling towards the Capuchins can see, through my eyes, what it means to love God so much, you'd dedicate the rest of your life to serve Him....